In the letter, the supermarkets threaten to boycott Brazil should the bill go through.

The bill in question, PL 2633/2020, previously known as Provisional Measure 910, will open around 65 million hectares of public land in the Amazon to third parties. This will make it possible for agri-business and the timber industry to buy land, which could lead to the displacement of local indigenous communities.

In response to the bill, the open letter says: “We are deeply concerned about the Provisional Measure 910 – now changed to PL 2633/2020 – that has been submitted to the Brazilian congress for a vote, and which would legalise the private occupation of public lands, mostly concentrated in the Amazon.

“Should the measure pass, it could encourage further land grabbing and widespread deforestation that would jeopardise the survival of the Amazon. It could also hinder Brazil’s ability to meet the targets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and undermine the rights of indigenous and traditional communities.

“We believe that it would also put at risk the ability of organisations such as ours to continue sourcing from Brazil in the future.”

What is the proposed law?

PL 2633/2020 is presently making its way through Brazilian congress and permits land ownership in the Amazon rainforest. The bill has the backing of Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro and his administration.

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According to the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil (Cámara de Diputados), the bill “establishes criteria for land tenure regularisation of federal buildings, including settlements.”

Details of the open letter

The open letter signed by over 40 companies, which also includes Iceland Foods and the Co-operative Group, is addressed to the Deputies and Senators of the National Congress of Brazil.

The letter opens highlighting the vitality of the Amazon, saying that it contains 30% of the world’s rainforest and is home to 10% of all known species.

It says: “More crucially, the Amazon plays a critical role in regulating global climate, the water cycle as well as its role in system resilience which is fundamental for planetary health. We also recognise that it is also a crucial economic resource for Brazil, for both now and in the future.”

Signatories of the letter agree that, as businesses and investors with interests in Brazil, they wish to see the continuation of forest laws such as the Amazon Soy Moratorium, which agrees that companies wouldn’t buy soy from soy traders who are supplied by rainforest farmers.

The letter finishes by saying: “We want to continue to source from and invest in Brazil and help ensure that protecting the Amazon can be economically productive for all. We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its stance and hope to continue working with partners in Brazil to demonstrate that economic development and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.”

Economic impact of boycotting Brazil

According to the UK Gov website, Brazil is the seventh biggest economy in the world with a gross domestic product (GDP) of £2.3tn.

The site also notes that Brazil and the UK have long historic trade and investment ties. The UK was the fourth largest investor in Brazil in 2013, with stock investments worth $61bn.

In 2018, trade goods that were exported to the UK from Brazil were around $3bn, marking the UK as Brazil’s 15th largest trading partner.